Local collision repair chain Church Brothers acquired by national player

June 29, 2018
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Longtime Indianapolis-area auto body chain Church Brothers Collision Repair has been acquired by Minnesota-based Abra Auto Body & Glass, a national company that arrived in the Indianapolis market as a competitor in 2012.

Church Brothers was founded in Indianapolis in 1929 by brothers Noel and Clem Church. Dan Hall, who became owner in 1974, and his wife, Rhonda, are the latest in a line of three generations of family ownership.

The company opened its original body shop on Kentucky Avenue downtown. Now there are six locations: on McCarty Street downtown, on Shadeland Avenue on the far-east side, and in Castleton, Greenwood, Zionsville and Avon.

The deal closed Friday afternoon. Jim Kessler, chief operating officer of Abra, declined to provide financial terms of the deal but said the companies had been in serious talks about a potential acquisition since “about four months ago."

Church Brothers told fenderbender.com in 2016 that its annual revenue was $25 million.

Calls to Church Brothers were not returned, but Hall said in a written statement that “we are confident that we have partnered with a company that will continue our superior quality of workmanship, and with excellent service focused on always satisfying the customer."

“We’re tremendously excited about it,” Kessler said of the acquisition. “We’ve been competing against them. We’re really excited to get all their employees with all their knowledge. We really can’t wait for the transition so we can pick up where the family is leaving off.”

The collision repair company’s existing locations will still be branded as Church Brothers “for the foreseeable future,” Kessler said, and customers should expect no big changes in services.

“Hopefully what we can bring to the table, just being a larger company, we’ll be able to … keep up to date on equipment, technology and certifications,” he said.

And the majority of the 130 Church Brothers employees will keep their jobs, except for the possibility of a few central-services positions, Kessler said.

Abra has 15 Indiana locations with 11 in the Indianapolis area, and 400 employees.

“They are experts in collision repair,” Kessler said of Church Brothers. “We’re really trying to keep it as intact as we possibly can.”

Abra, which is in 27 states, says it is in growth and acquisition mode. It is looking to create another 10 to 15 locations in Indiana, and another 60 to 100 centers nationwide per year.

Abra was started in 1984 in Fridley, Minnesota. The company name originally stood for Auto Body Refinishers of America.

Dan Hall got his start at Church Brothers in 1963 sweeping floors. He proved a quick study and hard worker and quickly climbed the managerial ranks. He bought into Church Brothers in 1972 and acquired total interest in the operation in 1974.

Hall grew the firm internally until forming a coalition with other dealers in Indiana and other states in the 1990s. In 1997, he and those dealers brokered a partnership with Stamford, Conn.-based Saugatuck Capital to form Collision Team of America. At its height in 2000, CTA reported annual revenue of $103 million.

Ford Motor Co. bought a 49-percent share of CTA in 1998 and the remaining interest in mid-2000. But Hall quickly regretted the decision.

In July 2002, he put together a deal to buy back CTA, which consisted of 32 auto body repair shops, then brokered deals to sell the shops back to their original owners in Indiana, Illinois, Florida and Texas.

As part of the deal, Hall, who was then 58, regained ownership of Church Brothers shops in Indiana.




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